Supreme Court Reinstates Monsignor Lynn Conviction

Says prosecutors proved that he thwarted investigations and reassigned abusive priests without regard for children.
In this March 27, 2012 file photo, Monsignor William Lynn leaves the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

In this March 27, 2012 file photo, Monsignor William Lynn leaves the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Monsignor William Lynn may be headed back behind bars.

Lynn was freed last year after an appeals court overturned his conviction on child endangerment charges relating to Philadelphia Archdiocese’s sex-abuse scandal. On Monday, though, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned that reversal and reinstated the original conviction — saying that the child endangerment statute applied to Lynn even though he did not directly supervise the welfare of the child victims in the scandal. 

Justice Max Baer, writing for the court, said prosecutors established that  Lynn — who had served as the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s former secretary for clergy — had:

•  “Mollified victims of sexual abuse by falsely telling them their allegations were being seriously investigated and that the particular priest would never again be assigned around children, despite knowing that the priests under his supervision would merely be reassigned to another parish with no ministry restrictions on contact with children.”

• “Informed parishioners that the priests he transferred were moved for health reasons, leaving the welfare of children in jeopardy.”

• “Routinely disregarded treatment recommendations for priests.”

• “Failed to inform the relocated priest’s new supervisor about abuse allegations.”

• “Took no action to ensure that the abusive priest was kept away from children at his new assignment.”

• “Suppressed complaints and concerns by the colleagues of the priests; all with the knowledge that sexually abusive priests rarely had only one victim and that all of these actions would endanger the welfare of the diocese’s children.”

• “Finally, and even more egregiously, when (Lynn) was contacted by law enforcement, he misrepresented facts to thwart their investigation of these priests, and their crimes.”

Lynn’s lawyers argued — and the appeals court agreed — that the state’s child welfare law at the time could not be used against Lynn, since he did not directly care for the children, but instead supervised those who did. 

In the ruling first reported by Ralph Cipriano at BigTrial.net, the Supreme Court didn’t buy the argument.

“The broad protective purpose of the statute, the common sense of the community, and the sense of decency, propriety, and morality which most people entertain, coalesce and are actualized in our conclusion that (Lynn’s) particular conduct is rendered criminal in accord with the (child welfare) statute,” Baer wrote for the court.

Chief Justice Thomas Saylor was the lone dissenter.

Although Lynn “may have been substantially derelict in his obligations, as I read the record there were no facts placed before the jury by which it could reasonably conclude he affirmatively intended that children’s welfare be endangered,” Saylor wrote.

Lynn, a former aide to Philadelphia’s Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, was convicted in 2012 of endangering children, but the verdict was thrown out on appeal in 2013. 

See the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling and dissenting opinion below.